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Fibre supplements: Psyllium husks and more

We should have around 30g of fibre a day for good digestive health, but most of us only manage around half of this.

Fibre from food is an important way to help keep our bowel habits regular.

Some people who don’t get enough fibre in their diet consider fibre supplements for general health or for specific laxative needs.

Fibre supplements are often sold as tablets, powders and liquids and use different ingredients.

Fibre supplements are sold in health food shops and pharmacies.

Common fibre supplements include psyllium husks, ispaghula husk or methylcellulose alternatives. They may be sold under the name of the ingredient or under brand names, such as Fybogel.

Extra fibre helps keep all the other food moving through your digestive system.

Unprocessed bran is used as a low-cost fibre supplement. Experts advise people to build up the amount of bran they take gradually, a few teaspoonfuls at a time. Bran can be added to breakfast cereal or mixed with fruit juice or milk, or added to stews, soups, crumbles and cakes.

Laxatives

Fibre supplements used to treat constipation are also known as bulk-forming laxatives.

Like fibre from food, these supplements help the stool retain fluid and bulk so it is easier to go to the toilet.

Seek medical advice before trying any new remedy, even ones which may be described as natural, as these may still affect existing medicines or health conditions.

Ask your GP what type of fibre supplement, if any, would be best for you.

Taking too much fibre can cause diarrhoea.

Like any supplement, keep fibre supplements in a cool, dry place, away from humidity and direct sunlight.

Fibre warnings

  • Side effects. Fibre does not have serious side effects. At high levels it can cause bloating, cramping and wind. Drinking more water - about two litres a day - may help.
  • Risks. Rarely, fibre supplements have caused intestinal blockages. If you have any chronic disease, talk to your GP before you start using a fibre supplement. The sugar and salt in some supplements, particularly powders, might cause problems for people with diabetes or high blood pressure. People with diabetes may want to choose a sugar-free powder or another form of fibre. People with allergies to shellfish should avoid fibre supplements that contain chitin and chitosan.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 07, 2017

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